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The Origins and Early History of Attic Tragedy:
A Historian’s Thoughts1

Konrad H. Kinzl

Klio: Beiträge zur Alten Geschichte.

Herausgegeben von der Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR, Zentralinstitut für Alte Geschichte und Archäologie. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag. Heft 1, 1980, Band 62.*

© Akademie-Verlag





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The thougts here presented regarding the creation of Attic tragedy and the developments that made possible its creation arose out of my work on problems of the so-called early tyrants and the relevant passages in Herodotos.2 It must be emphasised at the outset that the problems of the origins of tragedy will be touched on only tangentially, as it were. Only historical, political and social aspects will be considered. It would be a mistake to think that I wish to offer a simple solution regarding the problems of literary interpretation. This study will concentrate on two commonly held views: Dionysiac cult and cultural activities in Athens are the expression of a “cultural policy” of Peisistratos and his sons and to be viewed against the backdrop of a class-like character of their base of power; Herodotos’ accounts at 5.67f. and 6.129 are little more than entertaining tales.


One basic fact may be regarded as a given (this, incidentally, is about the only point of universal agreement): tragedy is an original Attic creation. Beyond this we find ourselves already in the midst of modern controversy which we shall attempt, as best we can, to avoid. The reason





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for this is our sources, the latest of which dates to the twelfth century, whilst none brings us closer to the “first tragic performance” than about a century afterwards. All these “main problems”, the literary significance of which have been investigated from many angles by the specialists in this field, are therefore of only marginal importance for our study.

The following three elements keep appearing in our sources; they will prove of fundamental importance for our argumentation: the “generic components” of tragedy, the PRW=TOS EU(RETH/S, the etymology of the word TRAGW|DI/A.

1.1. Regarding the “generic components”, the main passage is Aristot. poet. 1449a. Despite the complicated discussion regarding the interpretation of this passage3 there are two statements in Aristotle which need not be called into question. He refers to undeniably Dorian and Dionysiac elements, i.e., dithyramb and dance. The common characteristic is wild dancing by a group of people (that is, a XORO/S) to the noisy accompaniment of musical instruments. The word DIQU/RAMBOS (first attested in Archilochos) is a loan word in the Greek language. Its probable origins are to be found in Asia Minor.4 We encounter three figures particularly closely connected in our sources with the history of dithyramb: Arion of Methymna, Lasos of Hermione, and Hypodikos of Chalkis.

1.1.1. Arion, according to Herodotos (1,23) was active in Korinthos in the age of Periandros. We may call him the “Homer of dithyramb” ­ an art form hitherto characterised by improvisation was transformed by him into one characterised by composition.5

1.1.2. Lasos introduced dithyramb into the agôn, writes the Suda (without saying which agôn). Musical innovations are ascribed to him in the Ps.-Plut. treatise PERI\ MOUSIKH=S. Klemes of Alexandria even elevates him to the position of creator of dithyramb. His date of birth is given as Ol. 58 (548/45) by the Suda.6 Herodotos reports (7,6,3f.) that Lasos visited Athens some time after the death of Peisistratos and before the murder of Hipparchos (527-513). He exposed on this occasion Onomakritos, the oracle specialist of the Peisistratidai, as an interpolator. Onomakritos fell out of favour with his former sponsors. We do not know, however, if Lasos thus acquired the friendship of the Peisistratidai. It is impossible to say, on the basis of Herodotos, who sponsored Lasos’ visit to Athens, or why.7 We are well advised not to jump to the conclusion (following the ancient sources) that each and every prominent figure who visited Athens in the twenties of the sixth century must have done so at the behest of the Peisistratidai. Simonides at any rate was still highly respected and honoured by the Athenians many years after the expulsion of Hippias; he too had already back then visited Athens and his later relations with Athens make a close connexion with the Peisistratidai appear doubtful of not outright impossible.





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1.1.3. Hypodikos von Chalkis, finally, is encountered in the Marmor Parium. He is said to have been the first victor in the dithyrambic agôn at the Great Dionysia. We can date this important event to the Great Dionysia of 508.8 The inclusion of the dithyrambic agôn in the celebrations of the Great Dionysia represents an important innovation. Its choruses were bigger than those of tragedy. This strengthening of the festival of Dionysos was apparently one of the first acts of the Athenian state after liberation from the reign of terror of the Peisistratid Hippias.

1.1.4. We may, at this stage of our investigation, already note the following features: a strictly Dionysiac connexion; a connexion with Asia Minor; strong ties to the Isthmos region; a Dorian element; and finally, a clearly delineated development from the improvised and orgiastic to the composed and ordered, tied to the artistic innovations of particular personalities in the realm of dance, musical composition, and poetry.[8a]

1.2. In our search for the PRW=TOS EU(RETH/S of tragedy we again encounter in our sources Arion, and also one Epigenes of Sikyon who remains a mere name, the Sikyonian TRAGIKOI\ XOROI/ in Herodotos’ phrase (5,67,5), and finally Thespis. Anachronistic language is common in our sources of which none reaches back in time beyond the era of fully developed tragedy. This leads to such confusion that names which cannot possibly have anything to do with tragedy (such as Arion) are actually named.

Thespis is the only one who may lay claim to the fame of being the original creator who, in one stroke of genius, generated a new literary genre.9 The fact that Aristophanes could refer to him without hesitation demonstrates that his name had impressed itself on the collective memory of the Athenians. As the first figure in the history of Attic tragedy known by name Thespis makes his appearance in Aristotle and the pseudo-Platonic Minos.10 He was *A)QHNAI=OS; the notices which connect him with rural Ikaria are the product of ancient literary and political speculation.11

His place in time is approximately fixed. The Marmor Parium, our earliest chronographic source, is in this spot badly damaged. The first appearance of Thespis at the Great Dionysia is mentioned. The possible time frame is 540 to 520. The statement in the Suda that this occurred in the sixty-first Olympiad fits well into this. The fourth year of this Olympiad cannot be considered; we thus have a choice between one of three springs: that of 535, 534, or 533. Eusebios offers no relevant information. The attempt to fix the akmê of Thespis in Eusebios to 539-38 is compromised by the completely arbitrary interpolation of his name in the respective entry of the Kanones. 12 The anecdote in Plutarch, according to which Solon reprimanded





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Thespis can be saved only by recourse to hypothetical explanations.13 It would detract too much from the theme of our investigation if we were to follow up in detail these old and continuing controversies. Thespis O( *A)QHNAI=OS has the best founded claim to being the creator of the literary genre tragedy, which rises upon the substructure of Dorian and choric composition and belongs chronologically to the so-called third tyranny of Peisistratos.

1.3. The bibliography of modern explanations of the Etymology of the word TRAGW|DI/A impresses by its size; the discussion continues none the less. What is certain is the fact that the word gave the ancient commentators already cause for speculation. Any hint that might throw light on the “what” and “where” and the meaning intended by the introduction of the word into the Greek language has been buried under the rubble of the ruins of early Greek literature.

Most recently Szemerényi made an impressive attempt at solving the riddle.14 According to Szemerényi the root *trag- derives from a non-Greek language of Asia Minor. I would in this context also draw attention to the fact that the adjective is not TRAGW|DIKO/S or TRAGW|/DHS but, as we all know, TRAGIKO/S. Now Szemerényi points to Hittite tarkw-/tarw-, a root with the semantic connotation of “dance”. Dance is indeed an integral component of any real or possible early stage in the development of tragedy. In particular we think of orgiastic dance with its connexions to western Asia Minor which could establish itself in the Isthmos region, that crossroads between east and west, and which would then be “hellenised”.


If one approaches Hdt. 5,67f. without any preconceived notions, his account provides glimpses of the activities of Kleisthenes of Sikyon which our traditional commentaries have missed. Important insights may be gained for the purposes of the present investigation. The dance of Hippokleides too offers a richer harvest if we view the account against this background.

2.1. Herodotos states (5,67,1; 69,1) that there were points of comparison between the reforms of Kleisthenes of Sikyon and those of Kleisthenes of Athens. Modern orthodoxy refuses to accept this. Even a commentator as sensible as Macan notes: “... the contrast ... is more obvious than the resemblance. Herodotus’ reflections on politics are sometimes defective.” As an appropriate response to the judgement of the “modern vulgate” (as I am tempted to term it) I quote Jacoby’s acid remark: “Herodotos is an ass, but ‘tradition’ has been salvaged!” If Herodotos claims to see parallels then our first task ought to be to bring these to light instead of insisting they do not exist.15

The main theme of the passage 5,67f. is the phylai reform. This is the starting





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point and the salient point of the comparison. The background is provided by the general political situation: *KLEISQE/NHS GA\R *A)RGEI/OISI POLEMH/SAS.

Kleisthenes is represented by Herodotos as determined and planning with circumspection. His every action is designed to serve the best interests of his polis Sikyon. This goal can be achieved only if the gods are favourably inclined towards the city, and if Sikyon is united at home and thus strong against external powers. Measures taken in the area of cult (5,67) are designed to serve the former purpose, the phylai reform (5,68) the latter. Regarding the phylai Herodotos records only the curious feature of their names which exposed them to the ridicule of the other Greeks. It contradicts human logic, however, if Kleisthenes in this grave situation had praised his own phyle as “rulers of the people” and vilified the rest of his fellow citizens (the majority of Sikyonians). The new phylai names are indubitably derived from eponymous heroes which served local patriotism or anti-Argive sentiment (see n. 2).

In the context of the present investigation the reforms of affairs of cult (5,67) are of far greater significance. Not only were rhapsodic recitals outlawed, on the grounds that the Homeric epics extoll the Argives and their city (5,67,1). Above all we learn of a campaign against Adrestos (5,67,1-5). Adrestos had in Sikyon a H(RWI/ON ... E)N AU)TH|= TH|= A)GORH|= (67,1); QUSIAI/ TE KAI\ O(RTAI/ (67,4); and in addition also TRAGIKOI\ XOROI/ (67,5). His herôön remained untouched. The QUSIAI/ TE KAI\ O(RTAI/ went to Melanippos. This Theban hero who had slain one of the Seven also received a TE/MENOS ... E)N AU)TW|= TW|= PRUTANHI/W|. The TRAGIKOI\ XOROI/ of Adrestos, however, were signed over to the god Dionysos himself. Adrestos accordingly had been revered in this respect in a way worthy of the god Dionysos.

Who was Adrestos? On the one hand a son of Talaos king of the Sikyonians; and on the other hand that king of Argos who alone amongst the Seven survived and returned to Argos (which is why he too fell victim to the anti-Argive campaign of Kleisthenes). Why, however, would this mythical hero own a cult which was worthy of a god? Evidently because he had been fused with a divine figure: a deity from Asia Minor who could be identified with Dionysos. The cult of that deity should have have been similar to that of Dionysos and included orgiastic rites. The name which in its Ionian form is rendered as Adrestos is indeed well known in Asia Minor.16

We thus encounter again the element (already observed several times) of connexions between Asia Minor and the Isthmos region ­ this time in the shape of a deity who is Dionysiac in character and whose cult included “choric” elements. “Choric” of course means orgiastic dancing.

In view of the reform-minded activities of Kleisthenes a further question arises in this context. We recall the changes to the Dionysiac dithyrambic dances in Sikyon’s neighbour city Korinthos. These had been profoundly altered by the creativeness of Arion sponsored by Periandros by the imposition of order resulting from composition. We may ask whether Kleisthenes would have been satisfied by merely transferring the Sikyonian Adrestos-XOROI/,





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which surely had not been fixed compositions, to Dionysos. Are we not also justified in supposing that concurrently with the change of ownership an artistic revaluation took place in competition with Korinthos? We again turn to Herodotos for an answer to our question and corroboration.

2.2. In Book 6,126-130 Herodotos offers that colourful account of how Kleisthenes married off his daughter Agariste. This episode occurred in 556/55.17 The passage is imbedded in a part of Book 6 which is full of direct and indirect references to Book 5.18

In this passage it is the account of the dance of Hippokleides (6,129,2-4) which offers illumination. If we read it against the background of what Herodotos reports in 5,67 we gain a better understanding of both occurrences. Herodotos reports how the wooers of Agariste undergo an examination of their artistic and rhetorical abilities at the end of their stay at the estate of Kleisthenes. Wine flows freely, and finally Hippokleides calls for a flute player to play a tune to which he performs a dance. Herodotos refers to the tune as an E)MME/LEIA. In the vocabulary of tragedy it is a terminus technicus that denotes a tune of special gravity, dignity and melancholy.19 Kleisthenes immmediately feels uneasy about the incident. This uneasiness changes to revulsion as Hippokleides begins to dance on a table, finishing by standing on his head and gesticulating with his feet. Kleisthenes exclaims: “son of Tisandros, you have danced away your marriage!”20 Hippokleides answers that he did not care; his fellow Athenian Megakles son of Alkmeon, however, receives Agariste in marriage.

This anecdote is not merely a Herodotean version of a folk tale. If juxtaposed with the passage just discussed (5,67) the dance of Hippokleides acquires a more serious significance. The implicit reference to 5,67 provides an explanation for the disgust of Kleisthenes. Hippokleides offended Kleisthenes by mocking something that was of particular concern to him.

Clearly the reform of the cult of Adrestos (as suggested above) did not merely consist of Dionysos’ taking the place of Adrestos. The cult itself too ­ the XOROI/called TRAGIKOI/ by Herodotos ­ was altered profoundly.

Details in the performance of Hippokleides partly illuminate this reform. Furthermore it demonstrates what I am tempted to call a development in accordance with the laws of history in the shaping of Dorian and Dionysiac XOROI/. Wildly moving and originally improvised Dionysiac dances were transformed into a genre of musical and poetic composition; the dances of the choruses were slowed down and their orgiastic character tamed, as it were.

This development was not a gradual one. It was by great leaps and by the artistic creativity of individuals such as Arion, Lasos and Thespis that this change





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was effected. Broad segments of society were involved in this but they cannot be defined rigidly as a specific class that represented the alleged base of the power of the “tyrant”. This is most prominently shown by the introduction of the dithyrambic agôn in Athens in 508 BCE. The activity of Arion demonstrates that these artistic leaps were undertaken under the protection of an aristocrat. If there is a gap of no less than ca. 75 years between Arion and Lasos, this interval is reduced considerably if we place the innovations of the time of Kleisthenes of Sikyon in between.21

2.2.1. One additional element in the dance of Hippokleides ought not to be ignored, namely, the table on which he gave his performance.22 Modern scholarship refuses ­ surely with good reason ­ to accept the “Thespis cart” of Horace for the history of the performances of the genre tragedy.23 It cannot be denied, however, that in the context of processions, especially those of a boisterous character, objects and persons or persons with their appearance altered by masks are carried or carted around.

Strictly to differentiate between table and cart in this context seems somewhat pedantic. The point is that there is a raised flat surface ­ although tables admittedly do not normally come with wheels attached to them. A gloss in Pollux is of interest here. Under the entry E)LEO/S ­ usually explained by lexicographers and scholiasts as a MAGEIRIKH\ TRA/PEZA ­ he writes that before the times of Thespis someone would climb on a table and from there A)PEKRI/NATO the chorus members (XOREUTAI/).24

It is quite possible that such primitive forms continued long after the creation of tragedy or the “literaturification” of dithyramb. The way in which a quasi-theatrical performance could be exploited in the political arena is well-known from Athens. Herodotos reports in considerable how Megakles ­ by now already the son-in-law of Kleisthenes of Sikyon ­ staged the return of Peisistratos which was essential to his political survival.25 A black-figure vase incidentally depicts a cart transporting Athena and a male figure (Herakles) on one side and on the other side Dionysos, a Silenos, and a kithara player; one should not, however, follow Beazley in interpreting this as a depiction of a historical event.26

The important point that emerges from these details is that Herodotos (6,129) describes a primitive form of dance that was by no means uncommon. If Kleisthenes’ efforts had been directed at turning Dionysiac dance less similar to such forms of dance, then his disgust and anger at the performance of Hippokleides is not merely a pleasing folk tale motif but on the contrary perfectly understandable.





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2.3. On the basis of the “historical model” developed above and of our interpretation of Herodotos 5,67 and 6,129 we may, with a high degree of probability, draw the following conclusions. Kleisthenes of Sikyon hired an artist whose name is lost (unless we choose to recognise in him Epigenes of Sikyon).27 It was this artist who continued what Arion had begun. He further tamed the Dionysiac XOROI/ (which had hitherto belonged to Adrestos) and gave them a more solemn character. Herodotos was thus able to use, albeit in an anachronistic way, the technical terms TRAGIKO/S and E)MME/LEIA. If we take these with a grain of salt they offer a serviceable description of that innovation. Wild dances and the like were as a result a thing of the past. Hippokleides of Athens failed to comprehend this ­ or he cared as little as he did regarding the consequences of his performance ­ and he thus danced away the marriage to Agariste. In another place he might have danced to great applause ­ not so in front of Kleisthenes.


Let us now turn to the central theme of our investigation, namely, Thespis, tragedy and Athens. As we have seen, according to our sources Thespis may be regarded as the creator of a new genre of literature and music. He introduced his innovative creation to the audience at the City Dionysia of 535/33. His achievement was that he created from Dionysiac, choric, Dorian precursors Attic drama. We also saw how the Doric choral component establishes the connexion to the Dionysiac one. We also found that “Dorian” in this context is not to be taken in its most general geographical meaning but rather leads us to the Isthmos region ­ a connexion that via the Isthmos region points further to Asia Minor. We also attempted to construct a “historical model”, according to which the creative innovations of Dionysiac art forms were brought about by individual artists under the sponsorship of archaic noblemen.

We shall now test these theses to see whether they may also be applied to Thespis, tragedy and Athens. If the answer is “yes” the cumulative effect of our line of arguing may claim a high degree of probability ­ not only of possibility.

It is a widely-held basic tenet of modern scholarship that all innovations of the period of ca. 561/60 to 511/10 must be credited to the activities of Peisistratos and his sons.28 This is especially true of the so-called cultural policy of Peisistratos and the Peisistratidai. Thus it was Peisistratos who extended the programme of the festival of the Great Dionysia by assuming the rôle of the patron of Thespis, because Peisistratos based his power on the support of the “proletarian masses” in order to assert himself against the aristocratic leaders. He therefore favoured the “proletarian” cult of Dionysos.

My own assessment of the rôle which the masses were able to play in post-Solonian Athens under their aristocratic masters is less optimistic. The rural and agricultural proletariat was still subject to the dictates of the Attic





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aristocracy. Peisistratos’ political influence was not based on the support of a proletariat that was emancipated from its aristocratic masters.29

With respect to the alleged connexion between Peisistratos and Dionysiac concerns there is not a single direct reference in our sources ­ as even Berve must admit.30 Is it not possible, however, to draw inferences from the relations of Peisistratos outside Attika and in the realm of the divine in order to salvage the commonplace of his favouring Dionysos and therefore advancing tragedy?

We find an Argive women amongst his wives; his violent final return was aided by Argive fighters. It has recently been suggested that his LUKO/PODES were of Argive descent. At least his sons were CE/NOI of the Lakedaimonians. These are the only Dorian connexions of Peisistratos. To these we may add ties with Eretria and Naxos; with Boiotia, with Thessalia and Thrake. In the divine sphere we encounter the gods of Delphoi ­ attested for Peisistratos son of Hippias by an inscription ­ , and presumably also of Olympia, Eleusis, and Athens.31

Thus there are no connexions with the Isthmos region as such; nor with Dionysiac concerns which especially in that area received favourable treatment. On the other hand we do know of such connexions of the elder Miltiades son of Kypselos with whom Hippokleides was related in some way.32 Also of Hippokleides himself, before he discredited himself before Kleisthenes with his behaviour. And finally, but not the least amongst them, Megakles son of Alkmeon who returned to Athens with Agariste as his wife.

In these years Athens was still a relative backwater as concerns Dionysiac art forms. Hippokleides’ faux pas in Sikyon exemplifies this as much as the spectacle that Megakles, having just returned from Sikyon as the son-in-law of Kleisthenes, staged when he brought Peisistratos back in order to strengthen his own position. The dance of Hippokleides and the “theatrical performance” of Phye and Peisistratos fall in the same category.

We can also deduce from these events that the Athenians had a keen interest in events bearing “theatrical” characteristics und that Athens provided a fertile ground for innovations in this field.

Let us search Athens for a family or person under whose sponsorship the stroke of genius of Thespis became possible. We are justified in looking for an individual not least because the equipping of a tragic chorus was always the responsibility of one private individual. As we have seen, the family of Megakles is the most logical candidate. Since the discovery of the fragment of the





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Athenian archon list which contains the name of Kleisthenes as an A)/RXWN E)PW/NUMOS for 525/24 we know that Herodotos’ claim that the Alkmeonidai were in exile TO\N PA/NTA XRO/NON until the expulsion of Hippias can be taken only as a rhetorical flourish at best.33 Various families admittedly fled in the immediate context of the violent final return of Peisistratos but they may be assumed soon to have returned to Athens. These families, after their return, in my judgement co-operated and collaborated with Peisistratos and took on important political, social and cultural rôles. No Athenian aristocrat will have been willing to wear a muzzle for all future. That kind of resistance which was to bring about the demise of Hippias and his tyranny, and which was by and large borne by the same families, is completely and utterly unattested for the period from Pallene to the death of Peisistratos. The evidence weighs heavily in favour of the family of Megakles and his son Kleisthenes as the ones who decisively furthered the creative genius of Thespis and helped him to succeed.

The fragment of the archon list also shows that domestic peace lasted in Athens until the late ’twenties of the sixth century. It also marks the beginning of its slow decline. At the time at which international “stars” such as Lasos of Hermione and Simonides of Keos visited Athens we may assume that the political climate was still inviting enough. Conditions seem still to have been good in the archonship of Kleisthenes (525/24). Subsequently, however, they started on a path to decline, as I think.

The exposure by Lasos of the forgeries of Onomakritos who was a favourite of the Peisistratidai may point in this direction. The high repute in which Simonides was held by the Athenians until far into the fifth century does not seem to suggest close connexions with the Peisistratidai. Is it not conceivable that these two dithyrambic composers too were attracted to Athens by the patronage of the family of Kleisthenes?

The organisation of the Great Dionysia was amongst the duties of the A)RXWN E)PW/NUMOS ­ not of the A)RXWN BASILEU/S who otherwise is responsible for matters of cult.34 I would not rule out the possibility that accordingly Lasos or Simonides or both made their appearances in Athens in the archonship of Kleisthenes.

We have also noted that the inclusion of the dithyrambic agôn in the festivities of the Great Dionysia falls in the year 508, i.e., in a period in which Kleisthenes played an important political rôle after the expulsion of the Peisistratidai.35 Thus we may also conjecture that the temple of Dionysos on the south slope of the Akropolis36 ­ of modest dimensions, suggesting rather a private dedication ­ may have something to do with all this.

If the underlying general pattern developed above is accepted ­ i.e., the taming of Dionysiac dance by individual artistic personalities under the patronage of particular noblemen ­ we are permitted to search in Athens for





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such a patron. Which family, which individual would be better candidates than the family of the son-in-law of the Sikyonian Kleisthenes, and the person of the grandson of Kleisthenes of Sikyon, namely, Kleisthenes of Athens? In any event we know of no other Athenian family with closer connexions with both the Isthmos region ­ the cradle of Dionysiac composition ­ and Dionysiac cult and art forms in Athens. In another paper I argued at length against the individual glorification of Kleisthenes as statesman and “father of democracy”.37 In this context, however, I argue the case that Kleisthenes be identified as a “father” of Dionysiac art in Athens, even of tragedy itself, who would thus have contributed profoundly to Athens’ developing into a focal point and centre of the Greek mind in the fifth century. Here too he laid the foundations, just as the political reforms of the last decade of the sixth century implemented with his participation constitute the basis of that development that would later, in the fifth century, give birth to Athenian democracy. It is the fusion of these components which allowed an Athens to emerge which Thoukydides’ Perikles would claim (2,41,1) to have become TH=S *E(LLA/DOS PAI/DEUSIS.

* * * * *


In this excursus I shall demonstrate that Herodotos is justified in claiming (5,67,1; 69,1) that Kleisthenes of Athens “imitated” his homonymous grandfather. For this purpose I shall focus on seven specific points in Hdt. 5,67f. I shall juxtapose the actions of Kleisthenes of Sikyon ­ K(S) ­ with the parallels to be associated with Kleisthenes of Athens ­ K(A).


Hdt. 5,66,2: K(S) abolished the Ionian phylai names E(CEURW\N DE\ E(TE/RWN H(RW/WN E)PWNUMI/AS E)PIXWRI/WN, PARE\C *AI)/ANTOS: TOU=TON DE/, ..., CEI=NON E)O/NTA PROSE/QETO.





Interpretation: Herodotos’ formulation shows that he intends to introduce a serious account rather than a fairly irrelevant idea at the spur of the moment. We also note the characteristic device of bracketing and repeating expressions which are nearly or completely identical. Furthermore he uses the imperfect tense at 67,1 before launching into his argument. Finally, and this clinches the case, he concludes with E)MIMH/SATO (69,1). If it was the wish of K(S)





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that the Sikyonians should not have the same phylai names as the Argives then the Athenian parallel is self-evident. The element of contempt (U(PERIDW/N) is also present. This is the point of Herodotos’ comparison here. The object of this contempt is stated explicitly only for K(A) whilst it is obvious in the case of K(S). What are we to make of this contempt from the Ionians of K(A)? The answer is unequivocally stated by Herodotos himself if we return to the starting point of his narrative in 5,67f. K(A) was in danger of succumbing to Isagoras (5,66,2) of whom Herdotos says that QU/OUSI DE\ OI( SUGGENEI=S AU)TOU= *DII\ *KARI/W| (5,66,1) ­ not, as is claimed frequently, in order to denigrate him. According to Greek saga the dyed in the wool Ionians took Karian wives after their migration to Asia Minor. Now, it might appear that Herodotos’ comparison is odd when it comes to the use of a non-epichoric eponym for a phyle since he names only Aigialeus in post-Kleisthenic Sikyon and Aias in Kleisthenic Athens. However, the true correspondence is easy to fathom: Archelaos son of Temenos. Thus the parallelism is correct.


67,1: K(S) ... POLEMH/SAS.

Interpretation: Reforms as far reaching as those of K(S) were hardly carried out whilst the Sikyonian hoplites were facing the enemy in the battle field. They took considerable time to be implemented. One ought to visualise an extended period of hightened military tensions. The parallel situation in Athens is delineated by Herodotos in his account of a period of actual or threatened Lakedaimonian intervention and the war against Boiotians and Chalkidians (5,70ff.).


67,1: K(S) prohibited rhapsodic agônes.

Interpretation: Rhapsodic performances are already connected at Athens with such names as Solon, Peisistratos, and Hipparchos. The Peisistratidai are also frequently connected in our sources with the Homeric epics (the objective accuracy of this is of no concern here). On the other hand Plutarch reports (Perikl. 13,11) that a psêphisma of Perikles legalised the addition of rhapsodic competitions to the musical agônes of the Panathenaia.

The conclusion that is suggested by these notices if that the Athenian parallel is a falling out of favour of rhapsodic performances after the expulsion of the Peisistratidai for several decades.


67,1-2: In his desire to eliminate Adrestos K(S) approaches Delphoi for counsel. He receives the reply that Adrestos is a king of the Sikyonians, he himself, however, a LEUSTH/R.

Interpretation: As for Athens Herodotos reports from this period only one





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single oracle. It concerned the Athenian plan of an assault on Aigina. The Ath. pol., however, says that Delphoi was the final authority in the selection of the names of the ten phylai. If the oracle is genuine Herodotos must have known it. Whether it also contained a remark about K(A) we obviously cannot say. The phylai reform of K(S) coincides with his campaign against Adrestos and his consultation of the oracle in this respect. Either Delphoi also played a rôle in the K(S)’s choice of phylai names or K(S) negelected to enquire about them. If the latter was the case, this may have made it easier for the Sikyonians later to abolish K(S)’s phylai names. The less than complimentary labelling of K(S) as a LEUSTH/R may also have had something to do with this. It is impossible, however, to achieve much clarity on this.


67,1: The herôön of Adrestos in the agora of Sikyon remained unaffected.

Interpretation: It may have been Delphoi which moved K(S) to such a compromise. Otherwise we grope in the dark. An Athenian parallel could be verified only by an archaeological find. Even though our knowledge of the archaic agora of Athens surpasses that of other agorai in every respect, thanks to the American excavations, we gain no insight in this matter as far as I can tell, especially since we know virtually nothing about the [archaic] Sikyonian agora.


67,2-5: To Melanippos are handed over the QUSI/AI TE KAI\ O(RTAI/ of Adrestos as well as a TE/MENOS ... E)N AU)TW|= T|= PRUTANHI/W|.

Interpretation: We must again confess our lack of any factual knowledge (as in 5 supra).


67,5: K(S) transferred the TRAGIKAOI\ XOROI/ of Adrestos to Dionysos.

Interpretation: The Athenian parallel ­ perhaps the most interesting of all points ­ is here unequivocal. In the spring of 508 the Great Dionysia were for the first time celebrated by including the impressive spectacle of dithyrambic agônes. K(A) is to be identified as the driving force behind this innovation, as we attempted to demonstrate above (pp. 179; 186).

* * * * *

With this Excursus I hope to have shown that ­ to play on the words of Jacoby (see p.180, 2.1 with n. 15 supra) ­ Herodotos was no “ass” and the “tradition” cannot be “salvaged”. It is everybody’s right to insist that Herodotos in 5,67 only gave in to his irresistible urge to tell a tale. Those, however, who incline to take Herodotos seriously will admit that Kleisthenes of Athens indeed E)MIMH/SATO his homonymous grandfather





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from his mother’s side: the point of departure is obviously of a specific nature ­ the introduction of new phylai names; every digression needs a point of departure.

It is equally obvious that the comparison as developed in these pages far exceeds the narrow topic [of the phylai reform]. Herodotos reports at length on Kleisthenes of Sikyon and his other, surely little-known, reforms (5,67); regarding the Athenian Kleisthenes, however, there was no such need for a lengthy digression: in his dialogue with his audience he was able to take their knowledge about most facts for granted (cf. my comments in RhM 118,1975,193ff.; esp. 202ff., with lit.). It was his discovery (we ought to believe him: DOKE/EIN E)MOI/, 5,67,1 and 5,69,1) that the new phylai names of Kleisthenes of Athens were predicated by a certain element of MIME/ESQAI. He corroborates his discovery by implicitly pointing out further parallels. Is Herodotos an “ass”? **







*     Originally published in German, “Zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte der attischen Tragödie: Einige historische Überlegungen”, Klio 62 (1980) 177-190. I thank the co-editor of Klio Manfred Clauss for his permission to republish this paper in English translation on the Web. July, 1998, K. H. Kinzl, e-mail .

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1     Revised version of a paper given at the invitation of the Sektion Altertumswissenschaften at the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, 1977 12 02. The subject matter of this paper was also presented in papers or seminars at the Universities of Bangor, Berlin-West, Heidelberg, Innsbruck, Oxford and Trier, and at the 40th annual convention of the American Philological Association in New York. I am indebted to many colleagues for constructive criticism, especially Ernst Günter Schmidt, Jena. I thank Rigobert Günther and the editorial staff of Klio for printing it.   ­   It is my hope that the readers will appreciate it that I attempt to avoid polemic. The secondary literature on which the paper rests can be found in, e.g., A. Lesky, Die tragische Dichtung der Hellenen, 31972, 11ff. and in his footnotes in chapters I and II. (We now have in English translation F.R. Adrados, Festival, comedy and tragedy, 1975.) For bibliographic references see also the article cited in n. 14 infra, 331f. A.W. Pickard-Cambridge, Dithyramb, tragedy and comedy, 2nd ed. by T.B.L. Webster, 1962, is an essential repertory.

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2     K. H. Kinzl, “Betrachtungen zur älteren Tyrannis”, in: Die ältere Tyrannis bis zu den Perserkriegen, 1979, 298-325 (Wege der Forschung 510) (cf. the revised version of this article in AJAH 4 (1979) 23-45; English trans.).

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3     Lesky 22.ff.

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4     Pickard-Cambridge2 ch. I (pp. 1-59). Archilochos F 77 Diehl3 = F 120 West. Words in -mb-: Kretschmer-Locker, Rückläufiges Wörterbuch 377f. “Vorgriechisch” according to Frisk s.v. (vol. 1, p. 391f.); cf., for other explanations, Pickard-Cambridge2 8f.; H. S. Versnel, Triumphus: an enquiry into the origin, development and meaning of the Roman triumph, 1970, 11ff.

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5     Hdt. 1,23: KAI\ DIQU/RAMBON PRW=TON A)NQRW/PWN TW=N H(MEI=S I)/DMEN POIH/SANTA/ TE KAI\ OU)NOMA/SANTA KAI\ DIDA/CANTA E)N *KORI/NQW|. Pickard-Cambridge2 97ff. (sources); 11ff. Cf. n. 9 infra.

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6     Pickard-Cambridge2 13ff.

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7     On this p. 186 infra.

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8     FGrHist 239 A 46.

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[8a     Cf., for what it is worth, W. Schadewaldt’s “Diagramm”, “Ursprung und frühe Entwicklung der attischen Tragödie”, H. Hommel (ed.), Aischylos, Darmstadt 1974, 112.

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9     Arion: p. 178 supra with n. 5. Epigenes: TrGF 239 (Suda *Q 282 *QE/SPIS; Ps.-Zenobios 5,40 CorpParoemGr 1, 137); cf. p. 184 infra. Hdt. 5,67,5: p. 182 (2.2) infra. Thespis: Pickard-Cambridge2 69ff.; TrGF 1 T 1ff.

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10     TrGF 1 T 5; 6; 13.

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11     Lesky 49. On TrGF 1 T 1 (Suda *Q 282 *QE/SPIS): *QE/SPIS *I)KARI/OU (*IKA/ROU F) PO/LEWS A)TTIKH=S TRAGIKO/S, cf. also Patzer 35.

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12     Marm. Par., FGrHist 239 A 43 (TrGF 1 T 2). Suda (n. 9 supra) (TrGF 1 T 1). Euseb. Kanones Ol. 60,2 (Armen. p. 189 Karst).

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13     Plut. Solon 29,6; cf., e.g., Lesky 38f. for such a hypothesis.

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14     O. Szemerényi, “The origins of Roman drama and Greek tragedy”, Hermes 103 (1975) 300ff.; esp. section VIII (319-330).

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15     Macan ad locum. Jacoby, Gnomon 1,1925,266 (= Abhandlungen 175): “Herodot ist ein Esel, aber die ‘Tradition’ ist gerettet!”. See also the “Excursus” infra, pp. 187-90. What follows overlaps with my article cited in n. 2 supra, the conclusions of which I here presuppose or pass in review only.

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16     Cf. Roscher s.v. no 2. See especially Robert 911. The name is incidentally missing in Zgusta, Kleinasiatische Personennamen.

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17     Regarding this date see my study n. 2 supra 302 with n. 18 [= AJAH 4 (1979) p. 26 with n. 18]. The conventionally accepted date is ca. twenty years earlier.

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18     K.H. Kinzl, Herodotos ­ Interpretations, RhM 118 (1975) 193ff.

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19     E.g. Plat., nomoi 816 B. Pickard-Cambridge2 253f.

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20     Herodotos incidentally uses at 2,46,2 the term TRAGOSKELH/S for representations of Pan; Hippokleides gesticulates with his SKE/LH.

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21     My dating: approximately the third decade of the sixth century (see my study cited in n. 2 supra, 302f. [= AJAH 4 (1979) 26f.).

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23     TrGF 1 T 14 (Hor. ars 275ff.). Lesky 56.

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24     TrGF 1 T 16 (Pollux 4,123). Lesky 51; Pickard-Cambridge2 86f.

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25     Hdt. 1,60,2-5.

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26     Ashmolean Museum Oxford, 1885.668 (V. 212); “Priam painter, late 6th c.” (cf. Beazley, ABV 331,5). Beazley, in the text explaining the vase in the display case, inclines to see in the scene depicted a representation of the production described by Herodotos.

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27     See n. 9 supra.

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28     In the following paragraphs the results of my study mentioned in n. 2 supra form the foundation.

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29     Cf. my study of Athenian domestic politics in the last decade of the sixth century, “Athens: between tyranny and democracy”, in: Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean ..., Studies ... Schachermeyr, 1977, 200ff. (esp. sections 1. and 2.) with lit. [now also in German translation, “Athen:zwischen Tyannis und Demokratie”, in Demokratia: der Weg zur Demokratie bei den Griechen (1995) 213ff.] (cf. esp. J. Martin, Chiron 4 (1974) 6-42 [= in: Demokratia 160ff.).

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30     H. Berve, Die Tyrannis bei den Griechen, 1967, vol. 1,60.

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31     For references see Berve 2,543ff.; Schachermeyr, RE 19,180ff. s.v. Peisistratos 3 (now also in Die ältere Tyrannis [see n. 2 supra], 112ff.); K. Kinzl, KlPauly 4,589ff. s.v. Peisistratos 3. The archaeological evidence of buildings is best accessible through J. Travlos, A pictorial dictionary of ancient Athens, 1971; J.S. Boersma, Athenian building policy from 561/0 to 405/4 B.C., 1970. See also E. Kluwe, Die Tyrannis der Peisistratiden und ihr Niederschlag in der Kunst, Diss. Jena 1966.

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32     K. Kinzl, KlPauly 4,735f. s.v. Philaidai 2.

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33     Hdt. 6,123,1. See K.H. Kinzl, RhM 119 (1976) 311ff. SEG 10,352.

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34     Pickard-Cambridge2 58.

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35     See K.H. Kinzl (n. 29 supra) 200ff. (section 1) and p. 179 supra.

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36     Boersma 189. The archaeological evidence does not contradict such an attribution by its dating (kind oral communication by E. Vanderpool and Judith Binder, autumn 1977).

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37     See K. H. Kinzl (n. 29 supra) (pp. 202ff. [= 217ff.]) as well as Martin, Chiron 4 (1974) 6ff. [= 163ff.]

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**     Only at the page proof stage did I learn of F. Kolb’s (whom I thank for providing the bibliographic information) studies which I was unable to take into account: Agora und Theater, Volks- und Festversammlung, 1980; “Polis und Theater”, in: Das griechische Drama, ed. G. A. Seeck, 1979, 468ff. On Kleisthenes of Sikyon cf. also G. Bockisch, Klio 58 (1976) 527-34.

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